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Steering/Braking Techniques

There are four main styles of steering:

1. Hand over hand: 

This is the most common form of steering. It is comprised of a series of pulls with hands alternating from the top of the wheel in the direction of the turn. 
There is nothing dangerously wrong with this style. Its most contentious issue is, each hand pulls down on its opposite side creating a weak uncomfortable grip when each hand goes upside down. Many drivers compensate for this by placing their hand inside the rim of the wheel; a dangerous practice.

2. Cross arm:

The hands grip the wheel on the opposite sides, about 1/4 to 3, if you can imagine the steering wheel as the face of a clock. The wheel is turned half a turn in either direction until the arms cross, before the hands change grip.

3. Shuffle:

The hands grip the wheel on opposite sides at the same height, (10 to 2 or 1/4 to 3). The wheel is fed through the hands alternately. The only problem with this style is that it is inefficient whenever the wheel needs to be turned quickly, eg. parking or turning the vehicle around.

4. Pull-push:

The hands grip the wheel on opposite sides at the same height, usually 10 to 2. The hands alternate the grip, moving up and down the wheel at the same height. One hand pulls the wheel down to the bottom where it meets the other hand at 6 o'clock position. Changing grips, the opposite hand pushes the wheel to the top where the hands touch at 12 o'clock, ready to change again for the pull down; etc. 

When the steering is turned to the desired amount, both hands hold the wheel opposite and at the same height as each other. 

To straighten the wheel, reverse the procedure. The last hand to 'feed in' is the first hand to 'feed out'. 

'Pull-push' steering is favoured for four main reasons:

1. It provides a better sitting position:


The most common reason that drivers lose control of a vehicle in an emergency is that they move in their seats owing to poor positioning. Pull-push steering provides the best control during steering because the arms are always at the same height and the hands never cross to the opposite side of the wheel. This will also mean that the driver will experience less fatigue, especially when driving on a winding road.

2. It provides better grip:


It is natural to grip a vertical object with the thumb up rather than the little finger up. With pull-push steering, the thumb always remains up, unlike hand-over-hand or cross-arm. 
Pull-push steering is the only style that enables the driver to hold the wheel locked still while negotiating a bend. As one hand pulls the wheel into the bend, the other hand slides down the wheel to remain opposite. When sufficient steering is achieved, both hands hold the wheel still. With either cross-arm or hand-over-hand styles, one hand would now be above the other and both hands pulling in the same direction. This situation is not conducive to holding the wheel steady.

3. It is smoother:


It is easier to experience this fact than it is to describe it. When the technique has been mastered, try a turn in a carpark or other area away from traffic; make the same turn at the same speed using hand-over-hand. 

It makes sense that pull-push will be smoother when you think about the hand action of the various styles of steering. Pull-push is a natural, symmetrical hand movement which allows easy passing of the wheel from one hand to the other at the top and bottom of each stroke. 

4. It is the most efficient method of steering:


No other steering style consistently provides half a turn of the wheel for each hand movement. This means that you are able to move your hands slower on the wheel to provide the same amount of steering in the same time. Once the technique is mastered, drive through a slalom of traffic markers, set up in an off-road area. First using pull-push steering and note your best speed, then see if you can get near the speed with any other style. Betchya can't!!!


It is understood that in driving there are other issues of more importance than steering, however new drivers have to learn some form of steering. Why not learn the best there at the outset? This means it won't be necessary to unlearn bad habits later.

Mistakes to watch for:-


Timing of the steering in or out. It is common for new drivers to wait until the vehicle has completed the turn before feeding the wheel back to straight. The earlier the feedback, the slower the wheel may be turned.


Hands not reaching to the top or the bottom of the wheel before changing grips.


Hands not staying the same height as one another.


Trying to move the hands too fast.

Brake Use

  Generally, while braking or steering left foot support on the footrest or floor will supply body stability, resulting in safer, more consistent control.

Braking should be completed before gear changing occurs.   The correct procedure is to brake to the best speed for the situation, then make one gear change to the most suitable gear for the purpose.

Note: Changing gears during braking is widely practiced, advocates often believing they are changing gears to save brakes.   However this style is rough, damaging to the vehicle’s drive train and develops habits that are likely to produce a dangerous reaction during an emergency.

When descending a long slope, care should be taken not to overheat the brakes.   Before descending the hill, reduce to the appropriate speed in order to engage the gear that is best suited to contain the vehicle’s speed for this gradient, with appropriate use of the engine compression brake.   Where the gradient of the hill increases for a distance or it is necessary to slow more for a bend, a steady light pressure on the pedal is better than intervals of hard pressure, for containing brake overheating.

When braking on the down hill approach to a turn or bend, start and complete braking earlier than on level ground so that you have extra distance to change gears and control the vehicle in case of some unexpected difficulty.   On extreme gradients it may be necessary to use the brakes again.

When braking in slippery or loose conditions spread the braking over as much distance as possible and avoid braking during steering.   This means that you will start braking much earlier on the straight and reduce or cease braking while steering.

by Trev Sobey
Chief Instructor
Driver Training Academies of Australia Pty Ltd.
Head Office:
"Hemco Park" 118 Learmonth Street
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